When Donald Trump was elected president in 2016, millions of Americans who doubted his integrity wondered how they could ever trust his decisions in moments of crisis. Now such a moment is here.
As we go to press, the world is watching as tensions escalate between the United States and Iran. Aircraft carriers are en route to the Middle East. Nonessential diplomatic personnel have been ordered home. John Bolton, the notoriously hawkish national security adviser, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo say that new intelligence indicates that Iran is not keeping its agreements with the U.S. But what if their “intelligence” unravels like the non-existing weapons of mass destruction that launched "Shock and Awe" over Baghdad?
Millions of Americans believe that the saber-rattling is yet another manufactured crisis to distract us from the president’s mounting legal and political problems at home.
How can we know? “Facts” change in a day. There is little opacity in Trump’s White House. The moving pieces in this diplomatic and military chess game require the best and brightest and most politically astute decision makers. The issues are daunting and terribly complex. How can we trust this president’s team to keep us safe and do the right thing?
As a nation, we pay the price of military missteps with the blood of our children. According to the Associated Press, some 2,400 American soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan since 2001. We lost some 4,424 in the Iraq War. A generation ago, more than 57,000 American troops died in Vietnam.
The fighting in Afghanistan is now the longest conflict in American history. We still have some 14,000 troops stationed there, working in counterterrorism and “advising” local forces in their battle against the Taliban. More than 20,000 men and women have been wounded since we began our engagement in Afghanistan in 2001. The big numbers blur in our minds. But we can hold in our hearts this Memorial Day two young soldiers who died in combat in Afghanistan in March. Read their names and their hometowns. For a moment, offer a comforting thought to their parents. Consider what we have wrought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The soldiers were Spc. Joseph P. Collette, 29, of Lancaster, Ohio, and Sgt. 1st Class Will D. Lindsay, 33, of Cortez, Colo. On this holiday, let us honor their service and hope that memories of them in the fullness of their lives bring comfort to their families. They were killed so far from home, so far from mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. They died during a winding down of an endless, and some say unwinnable, war. But what does that matter to those who loved them?
They join thousands of other young men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan in the past decade. They left behind families and jobs and all the joys and sorrows that comprise young people’s lives to do their duty, to take up a fight they were told was just and necessary.
Since this country launched its misguided attack against Iraq in March 2003, we have reaped what we have sown: unnecessary death and loss. We remain engaged in Afghanistan, a war that has seen surges and withdrawals and no real evidence that we won’t someday look over our shoulders as we leave and see chaos in our wake.
What will make the gains, if there are any, worth the losses? Who will give these brave and loyal soldiers their lives back? Who will restore peace of mind to combat-weary members of the military who have left the battleground but still fight depression and anxiety? Who will make whole the more than 15,000 bodies that have been torn apart by bombs in Afghanistan alone?
Most of us have not been asked to sacrifice anything. No draft. No rations. No curfews. No shortages. But some of us have been asked to sacrifice everything.
We are living through a time of political chaos and deep mistrust. If we take one good thing from this crisis of faith in our government, let it be that we need trustworthy leaders. We need a president who demonstrates clarity of mind, moral courage and devotion to the good of the American people. When the president says we have to fight for our freedom, that we have to let our children go to war, we have to believe him, or her.
Copyright 2019 Randi Kreiss. Randi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.